Bridging Worlds - Making the Most of the Systemic Interconnected Approach




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May 02, 2019
by Oscar Tollast
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Bridging Worlds - Making the Most of the Systemic Interconnected Approach

Salzburg Global Fellows consider how to best achieve alignment across sectors connecting inclusive economies and health Copyright Salzburg Global/Katrin Kerschbaumer

There is a famous quote from Walter Payton: “We are stronger together than we are alone.” It’s a well-known quote but perhaps one we are all guilty of failing to take into consideration from time to time.

Aptly, ahead of moving into working groups on Monday afternoon, participants of the Salzburg Global program, Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health? were asked to consider: how is alignment best achieved across sectors connecting inclusive economies with health?

In addition, what capabilities do we need to build to make the most of the systemic, interconnected approach that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourage?

One participant discussed how they became frustrated when others treated health as “health care.” They said their aim now was to get businesses to work toward health resilience, focusing on improving the future of health in the workplace, societal settings, and supply chain. The speaker said this work could be accomplished through partnerships.

Fellows heard companies should understand what their impact is on their employees, consumers,  stakeholders, and surrounding communities. Businesses can take a systemic approach to health and  connect it to their processes.

Hearing what other people think is important, and this requires active listening. One speaker suggested this skill could be adopted more by professionals working within health. There needs to be a recognition health is not going to be prioritized in the same way by other stakeholders.

Adding to this notion of active listening was the importance of having “authentic conversations.” The speaker indicated distrust existed within health circles in the UK because promises are made which can’t be kept. This has damaged health’s kudos at a national and local level. To some, health is seen as a “cash cow or begging bowl.” It has to overcome this legacy and have an authentic conversation with potential partners on the reality of the systems and services.

It’s not just about talking either, Fellows heard. It’s about the language used in real life, social media, and the media. Fellows were urged to listen to the nuance of what people are saying.

A third speaker said the issues had been identified but what lacked was the implementation. The important thing now is to consider steps people can take to advance agendas.

They suggested one or two issues needed to be identified which could act as an entry point. From here, costs could be identified, and a case could be made demonstrating the gains of cross-sectoral initiatives. Initiatives can be built upon and scaled up.

The speaker warned that unless  action is taken now, Fellows will continue to have these conversations 10 years from now.

Fellows heard more institutions are beginning to reposition themselves in terms of how they view health and are beginning to look at the broader agenda and strategic points of entry.

The New Zealand Government, for example, has ensured its 2019 Budget has a focus on well-being. The Government has expressed its commitment “to putting people’s well-being and the environment at the heart of its policies, including  reporting against a wider set of well- being indicators in future Budgets.” “The Wellbeing Budget” will broaden the Budget’s focus by using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform the Government’s funding decisions.

Fellows recognized the importance of adopting cross-sector approaches and finding new ways of breaking out of silos. Examples were shared as to how engagement and interaction had been used effectively to break them down. One speaker posited whether silos were a manifestation of human beings’ dislike of complexity and longterm planning. 

One Fellow, summarizing what they had heard, indicated there was a need for disruptors, a need to know how to work within multidisciplinary teams, and an acceptance others might have the solutions to the problem being tackled. A solution is needed to find out how work can more frequently be assessed in terms of its health, social, and environmental impact.

The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health?, is part of the Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series. More information on this multi-year series is available here.